Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Note to Self...

...Remember to open the windows a few inches tomorrow morning. Today's forecast is for showers and a high of 56. It is, and has been for much of the day, gloriously sunny. The current temperature is 62, according to NWS/NOAA. It'll probably get a bit warmer. The forecast for the next three days is for morning fog, then clear skies, with highs near 60. My own sense from the pattern I'm seeing is that we're looking at mid 60's; I suspect many forecasters don't want to be too optimistic. I have no expertise, no reputation to ruin, so I'm guessing it's actually going to be a bit warmer than forecast, as it is today.

Time to turn out some of the stale winter air in the apartment.

As I've mentioned several times, this is an unusually mild winter, as is often the case during El Nino years in the PNW. But even for an El Nino year, this one has been warm. How warm? Well, as is my wont, I took a stroll around today and took pictures of spring flowers. I'm a little stunned.
Bluebells are at least a couple of weeks early.
Most if not all of these will grow, like, um, spring flowers, if you click on them.
Daffodils are a couple of weeks early as well.
In a neighbor's yard.
Crocuses generally bloom about this time, but these have been blooming for several weeks, at least.
Miniature Iris normally blooms sometime in March.
Pansies start early, so this isn't too surprising, but again, these have been blooming for a month or so.
A nice show of crocuses and some irises just opening.
Lens Flare!
More daffodils opening in front of some lavender. Lavender blooms for most of the growing season, let's say March to September, if it has water. (Our summers are quite arid.)
As you can see though, this one is blooming maybe a month early. For some reason, blooger insists on uploading this rotated to a vertical format. I have run into this issue before, and have no clue why it happens or how to fix it.
Tulips are up; typically at this point, they're just little green nubbins. They look as if they may bloom in the next 2 or 3 weeks. I would normally expect them to start late March to early April.
Dandelions... meh. No biggie. I think that unless it's actually well below freezing, with a bit of persistence, one could find a blooming dandelion any day of the year when there's a bit of sunshine in Corvallis. They seem to set buds, then hold them for warm, dry and sunny days. What strikes me is how freaking many of them there are open right now.
I don't know what this is called, but it's a heavily used landscaping plant in Oregon.

(Followup, 2/17: Celina tells me this is wisteria. I'm glad to finally connect the name to the plant; I've heard the name countless times, but not known what it was.)
Rhododendrons are almost purely a mid to late spring term bloomer... April to June.
Camellia generally start in mid-March.
A different angle on the blossom in the lower left of the previous picture.
I loved the vibrant colors on this bud on the same bush.
And another clump of very confused rhodies.

So is this due to climate change? No. It's due to a somewhat predictable stretch of abnormally warm weather. The east coast has been hammered by an abnormally snowy winter, and I haven't felt that there has been any reasonable amount of attention paid to the fact that the PNW has been balmy to the point of bizarre. I expect the simple reason is that this hasn't caused suffering and disruption, as has the cold snowy weather in the east. But while the planet as a whole may be a bit warmer or colder from one year to another, my sense is that at any given time abnormally cold in one place is balanced against abnormally warm in another.

What climate involves is looking at long term trends. The idiocy of "It's cold, therefore global warming is a hoax," boggles my mind.

There have been a number of fine articles on this topic in the last day or two. One example is "The Dunning-Kruger Effect and the Climate Debate," at Skeptical Science.

One of the best titles for a scientific paper has to be the Ig Nobel prize winning "Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments". The paper compares people's skill levels to their own assessment of their abilities. In hindsight, the result seems self-evident. Unskilled people lack the skill to rate their own level of competence. This leads to the unfortunate result that unskilled people rate themselves higher than more competent people. The phenonemon is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, named after the paper's authors, and is often seen in the climate debate. There are many with a cursory understanding who believe they're discovered fundamental flaws in climate science that have somehow been overlooked or ignored by climate scientists. Some take this a step further and believe they're being deceived.

Before anyone takes offense, let me begin with some disclaimers. I'm not saying the Dunning-Kruger effect is limited to one side of the debate. It's a universal human condition not confined to a particular ideology. When I first got into climate science discussions, I made my fair share of over-confident yet naive statements. As my understanding grew, I came to realise the complexities of climate science and how much more I have to learn (as predicted by Dunning and Kruger). I'm also not saying all skeptic arguments are a result of the Dunning-Kruger effect. However, a few examples demonstrate how the Dunning-Kruger effect can lead one astray.

The author skillfully dissects a comment left by a reader who tries to make the case that global warming is a hoax, since the Mauna Loa CO2 measurements are often taken as a proxy for global CO2 levels, the peak is volcanic and emits CO2, therefore the data are skewed upwards. The whole thing is worth reading.

I have taken enough classes in atmospheric science to comprehend how gawd-awfully complex it is, and avoid getting entangled in any substantive discussions on the topic. That doesn't stop me from puncturing obvious gasbags, though. And it gives me yet another excuse to gloat over the beautiful climate that I inhabit.

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